Friday, October 29, 2004

Giving up the green

Much as I hate to say it and all of us dirt crazy folks who love to garden hate to admit it, the green is gone.

The garden is looking fairly dreary and, yes, the ground has already had one freeze. But it?s still not too late to get those bulbs planted. The rain on Wednesday will have softened the earth again, so get to work?if you haven?t for some reason?digging holes for bulbs as well as laying on compost and steer manure.

The first step is to decide if you want to keep bulbs separate or mixed into the perennial garden. If you want to go for the all bulb plot, remember that bulbs have predictable flowering times, starting with snowdrops and crocus and moving on to all those screamingly lovely and colorful daffodils, tulips, lilies and irises. A riot of color can be main-tained into the summer with this plan.

On the other hand, by putting the bulbs in the flowerbeds means the early bulbs will lead the way into the perennial bedding flower blooms. There is always something in bloom and a variety of texture throughout the bed.

Allium, scilla and crocus are good for naturalizing under trees, near shrubs, along fence lines and even riverbanks if you?re lucky enough to have them.

Plant the bulbs in groups of three or five in holes twice the bulbs own height. You really don?t need a bulb planter tool, a towel works just as well. Add some bone meal and put the bulb pointy side up. The root end, which is generally fatter, faces down. So sit them in the holes spaced a few inches apart but not much more. Straight lines of bulbs are just silly, so try to avoid the soldier formation look. Replace approximately 4 to 6 inches soil over the holes and gently firm.

There are some wildflowers tulips available that look wonderful when planted amongst groundcovers and between rock garden plants. The most fun part of gardening is experimentation. Don?t be afraid to plant bulbs in random spots that you may not have thought of before.

Water your bulbs after planting to help them start the rooting process.

As for the rest of the garden, cut back flower stalks to a few inches above the soil. Keeping the stems a bit longer acts as another protector from the elements.

Mostly importantly, before the soil freezes again, get those plants under wraps.

Cover all the beds with a lightweight mulch such as weed free straw or chopped up leaves approximately 2 to 4 inches thick to help keep down weeds and keep the soil cool. This also protects the garden from false springs, some-thing we often have in the mountains and probably will see in the next few weeks when the sun burns bright again and we?re back in jackets and not parkas.

Good luck and see you in blooming spring.

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